Karamu House set to debut ‘Freedom on Juneteenth’ program featuring live performances

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CLEVELAND (WJW) — We have seen protests across the nation as voices speak out about racism and injustice. Another movement here in Cleveland is taking a stand, through art.

“Laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies and what’s his reason? I’m black,” Ananias Dixon performed the historic words of Shakespeare, shaking the halls of the Karamu House, altered slightly to address our current climate.

“What I do is substitute Jewish for Black and Christian for White,” he said. “I think in the piece itself, it’s expressing our anger in a constructive way.”

Wednesday morning artists rehearsed for social justice.

Freedom on Juneteenth,” Karamu House President and CEO Tony Sias said as he explained the meaning behind the program’s name. “A celebration of the last and beginning of all the states freeing all the slaves on June 19th, 1865.”

155 years later to the day on June 19, 2020 at 7 p.m., Karamu House will be hosting a discussion through art. 

“To begin to educate our community of the historical trajectory of African Americans in this country,” says Sias.

Current events shaping some of the performance. 

“As if there isn’t a man trapped on the ground for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. I realized, they wouldn’t even do that to a dog,” the words wrought with pain as Latecia Wilson performed her piece as one of the griots, the name for a West African storyteller.

She is also a playwright and the arts education manager at Karamu.

“At the point that George Floyd was murdered, we knew that we had to pivot immediately and look at this celebration as an opportunity to talk about actionable steps,” said Sias.

“As artists, we feel like the best way to protest is through our art form,” said Wilson.

“We all have the same objective, but we can have different tactics,” said Dixon.

As a mother of two, the theme around motherhood resonates heavily with her.

“There’s an artist who said that once George Floyd called his mom, he also summoned every mother that there is to stand up and do something.”

*Read more on the George Floyd case here.*

Because of coronavirus concerns, the approximately 17 artists will not be in front of a traditional audience, instead, their message will be shared on streaming channels and social media platforms.

It will be carried on Youtube and Facebook Live, Vimeo, Fire TV and Roku. Sias thanked KeyBank for their sponsorship and social responsibility at this time.

A live discussion with local community leaders will follow as the arts institution expands their outreach while maintaining their responsibility to the community. 

“There were more buses that left the parking lot of Karamu during the original March on Washington than any other place in the state of Ohio,” explained Sias.

“When people look back at the year 2020 they can say, Karamu House was on the front line, and I’m a part of that line,” said Dixon.

The program is designed to celebrate, educate, heal, and activate our communities. Audiences will be invited and encouraged to utilize the shared resources and to transform anger, disgust, and frustration into decisive ballot responses in November, especially within local elections. 

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